Purchasing airline tickets can be frustrating as the cost is often a moving target. The U.S. Department of Transportation now mandates that US airline carriers allow consumers to put a flight “on hold” without fear of a price increase for up to 24 hours OR cancel within 24 hours for a full refund. The purchase has to be at least seven days prior to departure and must be made directly with the airline. Currently, American Airlines is the only US airline that allows you to hold a flight for 24 hours without cost; others have opted for a free 24-hour cancellation period.
Rattvik, Sweden has captured our Hearts
Every year for 3-5 months in the summer my boyfriend, Blake, leaves to coach baseball in Sweden and because I am a loving and supportive girlfriend, I bid him adieu. However, I have also been fortunate enough to visit him on several occasions and this summer was by far my favorite. Our overseas home is located on the 7th largest lake in Sweden, in a city called Rättvik. It is a picturesque countryside town consisting of roughly 5,000 people (11,000 if you include the two closest parishes). The summer weather is gorgeous. 70-80 degree weather, slight humidity and light summer showers; a breath of fresh air when compared to Tucson’s unrelenting heat. The sky beams bright for nearly 21 hours before the sun dips below the horizon leaving the sky in a light purplish-blue twilight. Everything is green and the forest is full of life, the people are wonderful, blueberries and raspberries grow wild, and there is a sense of peacefulness. It truly is my Heaven on Earth.
This summer was an exceptionally strange one for Rättvik. The entire five weeks I had the pleasure of visiting, it only rained three days. THREE days! According to our Swede friends, it was one of the driest summers they’ve experienced in approximately 20 years and they LOVED it. Long remarkably sunny days meant countless locals out and about; from morning walks, to afternoons spent at the beach, and evening dinners on the porch. The Swedish community spends every waking moment outside with their families. There is even a day dedicated to fun – rightfully named “Tuesday Funday”. Tuesday Funday consists of downtown Rättvik becoming an outdoor fair. Market tents line the main street, live bands play everything from traditional Swedish folk music to hard rock, the ice cream stands boast lines stretching twenty people deep, and barefoot kids splash in the fountain located in the main square. It is quite an exciting afternoon and it takes place every Tuesday the entire summer. Oh, and a little tidbit of information – unless you ride your bike, avoid doing your grocery shopping on Tuesday as parking is hard to come by!We spent a lot of our afternoons at the baseball field; Blake coaching and me watering, mowing, and helping in any way I could. His athletes are all great kids but I couldn’t help but see that many needed additional guidance and support and it was their coaches that provided the inspiration, discipline and confirmation many needed. I have seen boys grow from tears of frustration to individuals who have experienced that crucial moment that made them a better player, whether it is hitting a homerun, striking out a batter, or simply catching a fly ball. It was truly a great experience and I am honored to have had the opportunity to be a part of it and create my own relationships with each player.
However, not everything consisted of hard work day in and day out. We always managed to find ourselves having fun outside of baseball. We gathered at the lake for beach volleyball, played fungo golf, and had quite the experience driving 40mph go-carts. One night, we had permission to use a lecture hall classroom at the high school. We hooked up a computer and watched the All-Star baseball game on a projector screen. This may seem silly but there is a seven hour time difference between Sweden and the east coast, meaning the All-Star game didn’t start until 2am for us. We hung out with a classroom of teenage boys drinking soda and eating candy, popcorn and other various junk food items only to laugh, cheer and eventually fall asleep. It was amazing.
Some of my fondest memories in Sweden come from moments like these and I now know why Blake cares so deeply for the kids he coaches, not just as baseball players, but as family.
Did you know that you can lease a brand-new car while driving in some foreign countries? If you plan to drive for an extended period of time (typically 2 1/2 weeks or longer), you may be able to lease versus rent your car. This can save you considerable money, is easy to do, and you get to experience a new vehicle. Call us today to see if this may be a good fit for your next driving vacation.
Want to save time when going through security at airports? You may be eligible for the TSA Pre-Check program. If you are a frequent flyer with a US airline, you may be invited to apply for this program through them; several major airlines are already offering this service. In the near future, you will also be able to apply online at TSA Pre-Check. A passport is not required, but a $85 enrollment fee will be charged.
Not only does TSA Pre-Check allow you to go through a designated screening lane (at airports where available), but benefits also includenot having to remove your shoes, laptop, jacket, belt or plastic bag for liquids. Kind of like the “good old days,” remember?
In light of the recent increased threat to Americans and westerners living or traveling abroad in certain countries, you may want to consider enrolling in STEP, Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, offered as a free service by the U.S. Government. Through this program, you will be contacted in case of an emergency. A consular officer can also assist Americans who encounter serious legal, medical or financial difficulties while traveling. The government has offered this service for quite some time, but recently changed the name to increase its awareness. Call us for more information or go to www.step.state.gov.
Record numbers of women are hitting the road or airways today seeking adventure, personal growth, or relaxation and renewal. From young female professionals who have the discretionary income to active seniors and a variety of women in between (regardless of marital status), women want to expand their horizons and are seeking experiences beyond their hometown.
In regards to travel, married women often convey that “my husband is too busy at work to join me” or “he doesn’t enjoy the same kind of travel as I do.” As a result, more and more married women are joining forces with girlfriends or sisters to strike out to parts unknown. A growing trend is mother and daughter travel or even three generations with Grandma joining the mix (and perhaps paying the tab). Widows often embark on travel they never did while married—either their spouse wasn’t interested, they were too busy with family responsibilities, or to help in the grieving process and provide renewal. Single or divorced women are tired of staying home and not having choices that couples appear to have, or only traveling with couples. As a result, many women are now traveling solo or joining other groups of women travelers.
Travel closer to home might include pampering and self-renewal at a luxurious spa resort. We are fortunate in Tucson to have two of the premier spas in our backyard—Miraval Spa & Resort and Canyon Ranch. These spa resorts as well as others throughout the country pamper women from all over the United States and beyond. Other U.S. travel often includes fun getaways such as wine tasting in northern California, chocolate tasting tours in Chicago, or shopping in New York City. If culture and history are high on your list, what about exploring the beautiful mansions in the South? More adventuresome women may prefer ranch vacations in Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana or outdoor adventures in Alaska.
Journeys farther from home now often embrace professional growth through culinary experiences, art classes, or language lessons in a foreign country— even learning to dance the tango in Argentina! Foreign destinations such as Costa Rica, Bali, and Italy are popular sites for yoga retreats to foster women’s renewal. Women seeking more adventure are trekking in Nepal, enjoying safaris in Africa, or embarking on river rafting adventures, to name a few. Many women are also embracing volunteerism combined with travel as a way of giving back to society. A common desire that a lot of women seek is the camaraderie shared with other like-minded women or the nurturing experience afforded by volunteering their time and talents to those in need. Do you see yourself as one of these wannabe women travelers, asking yourself, “How do I go about embarking on such a journey?” Some careful thought and planning can make all the difference in the quality of your experience and the memories you create.
Start planning by asking yourself some very basic, but important questions:
• What do I expect to gain and experience from this journey?
• With whom do I want to share this precious time? (Maybe you have been longing to deepen your relationship with family members or incorporate more fun with friends into your life, or even meet new people?)
• What can I realistically afford to spend for this trip?
• Who or what resources can best help me decide the best vacation fi t for me?
For more information about custom vacation planning to international destinations and, in particular, women-only travel, contact Gateway Destinations at 520-529-1242 or www.gateway-destinations.com.
The number of US airports offering Global Entry service, or expedited Customs clearance processing, has increased significantly since the program was introduced several years ago. Even if you travel out of the country only a few times each year, you may want to consider enrolling in this service through the US government. The cost is currently $100 to apply, and your enrollment lasts for five years. If you are a Platinum American Express cardholder, you can get reimbursed for this cost as one of the card benefits (must use the card to pay for the enrollment).
The benefit of enrollment is saving time when going through US Customs upon re-entering the United States. You can skip the long Customs lines and proceed to the nearest kiosk with your machine-readable passport. Many major US international airports now have kiosks available.
For more information and to apply, to to: http://www.globalentry.gov
Every vacation should be an adventure but sometimes adventure is a little intimidating on your own. That’s when it’s time to bring in an experienced planner or travel consultant to aid in the trip planning process. With the knowledge and expertise a consultant brings to the table, having a memorable and stress-free vacation is a sure thing. Never travel alone again – take advantage of a vacation specialist as your guide to the ins and outs of travel and sightseeing no matter where you go.
A travel agent or trip planner will have access to information and will have contacts in the industry that most of us simply do not. One of the many reasons an agent can make your vacation the best it can be is by using these insider advantages. It’s possible to travel better, smarter, and even spend less with the guidance of a trip advisor. An advisor brings years of experience and plenty of insider knowledge, giving you the best opportunities to make the most out of your trip.
With knowledge of seasonal weather, cultural points of interest, and thorough understanding of the best places to stay and things to do, a travel specialist can help to navigate you through uncertainties. Let a planner be your guide through the very beginning of the planning process straight through the day you leave. She’ll bring insider information, advice through experience, and so much more that you’ll be glad you had.
A vacation planner is so much more than just a travel agent. Think of her more as a friend who’s here to give you advice based on her own experiences and the information she’s gathered from hundreds of other vacationers over her years of practice. Her affiliations with other travel planning groups and expertise in popular travel resorts make her an incredible resource for every stage of vacation planning.
It’s never too late to bring in a travel consultant to your vacation planning. Look to her as your personal guidebook to wherever you are going: how to get there, where to stay once you arrive, what to do, and when to do it. Practically a fountain of information at your disposal, a consultant’s experience can only benefit you and make your trip the best that it can be. Leave the research to a planner and turn the process of designing a vacation into a stress-free experience and an unforgettable journey.
‘Where should you go for your next vacation or break?’ This might seem like a simple and straightforward question to many people, but it is actually pretty difficult to answer. How come? Different people will have different answers. We all look at the world in our own special and unique way. What is great and interesting to one person might not be so interesting to another. We might have a vague general idea as to what we want to do and where we want to go during our next vacation but turning a vague idea into a memorable trip takes work. Lots of it. Thanks to the Internet, more and more vacationers are using online resources to come up with travel destination ideas. They are able to access lots of travel blogs, travelogues, message boards, and other online resources to come up with ideas of where to visit.
The problem with all this information is that it can easily become information overload. You can easily become overwhelmed by the details. Another drawback to all this information is that you just don’t know which information is trustworthy. It is too easy to confuse hyped up promotional information with factual information. The same goes for the reverse situation-it is easy to take bad or inaccurate information and think it is true. Reading offline travel guides can produce better results since these materials have been fact-checked, and they are better organized. Still, you might have a tough time organizing your itinerary since there are so many details to focus on and you can’t make heads or tails of the data in front of you. If you need solid travel destination ideas, there is no substitute for the services of a professional travel consultant. This person acts as your trip advisor and vacation planner. The right travel consultant is a travel specialist who knows the ins and outs of planning vacations and turning vague ideas of summer vacation plans into fun, memorable travel experiences that ensure you get the most bang for your buck.
Filtering travel ideas
A skilled travel specialist sits down with your talks with you on the phone and figures out your personal preferences. The right trip advisor operates from the assumption that the best trips are those that engage the would-be traveller’s existing interests and personality. The advisor asks you several questions and gets a feel for what you like and what you don’t like. This travel expert also asks you for basic information such as your budget and past travel experiences. Based on this consultation, a skilled and experienced vacation planner will produce a few travel options that lay out an itinerary complete with what you should expect from each stop. You also get a budget for each option along with package recommendations. You can try doing this on your own using online resources but it takes experience and skill to get the best deals as well as the best itinerary and accommodations. An expert travel consultant helps take all the guesswork out of your trip so you can focus on the most important thing: enjoying yourself. Contact a trip advisor today and see the difference professional assistance makes for your next vacation.
Recent federal budget cuts has impacted staffing at airports thereby affecting the time it takes to do TSA security checks and Customs processing. Save yourself some stress and allow extra time to go through security and through Customs if returning from an international trip if you are making a connection, especially during peak travel in summer.